Walsden have their sights set firmly on glory in the Central Lancashire League and Wood Cup after exiting two competitions last weekend.
Chris Dewhirst’s men stay top of the Premier after a comfortable seven-wicket success over Milnrow last Saturday but they were beaten in two more home games, against Littleborough at Twenty/20 on Friday and by Barnoldswick in the LCB Cup on Sunday.
That gives the league trip to Rochdale on Saturday and Sunday’s return visit from Milnrow in the Wood Cup added importance as Walsden bid to follow up their 2012 title success with more silverware.
Walsden have enlisted the help of two Australians as pro replacements for injured Richard Sladdin.
Daniel Salpietro, a 25-year-old opening batsman and off-spinner from Victoria, is being borrowed from Rishton for the Rochdale contest while 24-year-old Tasmanian Jonathan Wells, a batsman and medium pace bowler, will temporarily desert his Northern League club Barrow for the cup contest.
Wells knows Salpietro and will lodge with him should the cup match be weather-hit and continue into next week.
Walsden will be hoping the pair can go somewhere near to matching the exploits of Accrington CC’s Ashar Zaidi, who played a key role in the victory over Milnrow.
Pakistani Zaidi took two for 41 off 16 overs with the ball and then really cut loose with the bat, after playing himself in, to make 108 as Dewhirst’s side surged to a target of 191.
It was no one-man show, however, Shuhbam Harkal and Jake Hooson also playing full parts in a win which keeps Walsden one point ahead of Littleborough and six in front of Heywood. Overseas amateur Harkal took five for 40, the young Indian spinner’s victims including Milnrow pro Babar Naeem for 56.
Hooson then stood firm when James Rawlinson and Matt Dawson were early casualties, adding 162 for the third wicket with Zaidi and seeing his side home with 56 not out.
Rawlinson had top scored with 70 in Walsden’s slightly disappointing 138 for seven against Littleborough at T20.
Ex-Test player Chris Schofield led the visitors’ response with 41 and although he was one of three batsmen to depart with the score on 73, Littleborough had victory in sight before the home men could claim a fourth wicket.
Aussie Clinton Perren (28 no) saw Littleborough home with seven balls to spare and they go through to the semi-finals as group winners.
Walsden were hugely disappointed to lose to Barnoldswick after rattling up 279 for seven and then having the visitors 45 for five.
A 211-run second wicket stand between Hooson (97) and Dawson (105) gave Dewhirst’s men a great platform but they didn’t fully cash in and the Ribblesdale League side hit back to snatch a one-wicket win.
Stevie Barker and Joe Gale took five early wickets between them but Barnoldswick pro Imran Khalid made a superb 141.
The left-hander was eventually ninth out with the total on 250 and the visitors’ last pair knocked off the remaining 30 runs with one late Harkal over proving particularly expensive.
Saturday’s hosts Rochdale will be in good heart after their win over Heywood and will be out to avenge an eight-run defeat at Scott Street a month since.
Milnrow are bottom of the Premier but have beaten Walsden this season.